Fort Street Tourism Village and the Feinstein Group have gone to court over the agreements signed in the early 2000’s for the then-Belize Tourism Village that gave it exclusive rights to dock cruise ship passengers. Michael Feinstein is now preparing to build his own docking facility at Stake Bank off the mainland. The Government of Belize is monkey in the middle and Prime Minister Dean Barrow today said that it has sought to find an accord between the two sides that protects each of their interests.
“The development is that, I had a discussion with Mr. Feinstein. Had a discussion with the Fort Street Tourism people, the two of them got together and so there is a little bit more clarity as to where we are, if not necessarily as to the way forward. I am trying to also have a conversation with Carnival as the biggest player in the mix in terms of ships that they are responsible for that haul at the Belize Port. That las conversation has not yet taken place. After that occurs, I will want to see the Fort Street Tourism people and Mr. Feinstein because I will have a much clearer sense as to wear Carnival is in terms of my own thinking as to how we ought to proceed. I don’t want to spell out from now what my thinking is, so let me just leave it at that.”
While the Prime Minister was not keen to go into details on the way forward at this time he did say that it involves a trip back to the House of Representatives to legislate for the head tax – the monies collected from passengers entering Belize of which various entities receive a portion.
Hon. Dean Barrow
“I don’t know if it’s exactly a meeting of the minds. There has been discussions that have helped to clarify the respective positions. In terms of the case, quite frankly, we expect to go to the House to legislate in terms of the so called head tax which is a cause of contention in so far as they are arguments as to whether it is properly speaking of a tax and as to who really should have the benefit of portions of the tax, if we do call it a tax. We want to clarify that and I expect that we are going to the House in that regard. That won’t solve the other related overarching issues, but by the time we do that, I expect to have had the conversation with Carnival and be able to say to FSTV and to Mr. Feinstein,’ this is what government proposes to do. This is the solution that we will back,’and have it proceed from there.”
FSTV have retained Barrow’s own law firm Barrow and Williams as counsel but the P.M., who is not practicing at this time, says that has no material consequence. If anything, his preference is for the Stake Bank project to proceed, for reasons which he explains.
Hon. Dean Barrow
“Absolutely not and I think you all know me better than that. The company is free to retain which ever firms it wants. In fact going a little further than I intended to by telling you a little earlier, personally I would want to see the Feinstein project proceed, but I have to be careful. I do not want to lose Royal Caribbean’s traffic to Belize and I certainly need to know where Carnival stands. We don’t want to produce in our efforts to find a solution – we don’t want to come up with a remedy that would kill the patient. But while I insist that I have to take very much on board the concerns of FSTV. I am saying that my preference is to see the Feinstein project proceed.”
The case resumes later this year with trial if no agreement is formally reached before then.